Operating out of the University Enterprise Labs, MarPam Pharma LLC is an early-stage biotech company working to develop a one-time treatment for HIV. With only a few employees on staff and the team actively working on their non-clinical studies, hiring an intern for some extra assistance made sense. But, as Lab Director Susan Austin explained, MarPam’s reason for working with students goes beyond receiving some extra help.
“For people in the sciences there’s all this expectation for previous experience. In this field, it can be tough to break in. So we believe in giving back and helping the next generation get that first exposure and experience,” Austin said.
Biological Sciences Major Khalid Ibrahim connected with MarPam after seeing their job posting on the SciTech platform. Looking for an opportunity where he could gain some lab experience, Ibrahim applied for their Laboratory Intern position.
Thinking back on the interview process, he said, “Susan was very understanding of my schedule,” and he appreciated the flexibility they offered so he could work around his classes. Austin then invited Ibrahim to see the lab and gave him a tour of the UEL facility where he and the team would be working. Seeming like a great opportunity, Ibrahim took the job.
Come up to the lab
Ibrahim’s responsibilities ranged from inventory to documentation to running experiments. His main task was conducting a gel electrophoresis procedure for DNA samples, a multi-step process that he demonstrated for the SciTech team when we came to visit.
His time spent working in the lab itself helped him develop crucial skills of the trade like pipetting, a task, he said, that’s since become second nature. His familiarity with the different types of lab equipment has also grown, as has his knowledge on the science behind the work they’re doing.
“When I first started,” he recalled, “they would give me homework to go home and google something and when I came back the next day they would ask me about it. I like when they incorporate learning into all these different skills.”
Austin remarked on how impressed she was with how quickly Ibrahim learned their processes and then implemented them with interest and precision. “Khalid is very detail oriented and that’s pretty amazing. You can tell he really cares.”
Pursuing your passion
As his first industry internship comes to an end, we asked Ibrahim what he took away from this experience and what he’d share with fellow biology majors looking for internships of their own. “Ask questions,” he said, “and if you have opportunities available to you, even if you don’t know whether you’ll get it or not, always try to pursue what you’re interested in and what you’re passionate about.”
“Be resilient,” Austin added, “and be determined. If you really want something, go after it. Khalid, for example, has a great work ethic and will certainly be successful.”